Supreme Court Decisions Will Take Center Stage in the 2020 Election

Democrat should prepare themselves for major losses on several fronts.

Right now, the story of the moment is the escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran in the wake of the assassination of Qasem Soleimani. Embedded within that one is a discussion about how it will affect the Democratic primary and the 2020 election.

But there are still nine months before Americans go to the polls, and a lot will happen before then that could change the contours of what will be front and center on the minds of voters. Just as events in the Middle East sprang onto the scene last week, it is impossible to predict all of the possibilities with any certainty.

There are, however, several major issues that will be thrust into the limelight by the Supreme Court. What we can predict with certainty is that the judicial branch is poised to issue several rulings that are destined to have a major impact on the election.

Women’s reproductive rights

The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling on June Medical Services v. Gee in June. While not a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, if the Louisiana law requiring any doctor performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a state-approved hospital within 30 miles of the clinic is upheld,  it will mean the end of women’s reproductive freedom across the country. To up the ante on this one, more than 200 Republican lawmakers filed an amicus brief suggesting that the court should use this case to overturn Roe.

DACA

In November, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case that seeks to overturn the Obama-era program that deferred the deportation of Dreamers. The lower court ruling that upheld the program was based on the fact that the Trump administration didn’t provide reasonable arguments for ending it. With that in mind, Ian Millhiser identified three possible outcomes for this case.

  1. A narrow case that upholds DACA
  2. A narrow loss for DACA
  3. A permanent loss for DACA

Obamacare

A lower court ruled that, when Republicans eliminated the mandate in Obamacare, they made the entire law unconstitutional. That case is headed to the Supreme Court, but won’t be decided until after the election. This week, a group of federal and state-level Democrats asked the court to expedite the case, allowing an outcome before the 2020 election.

Trump’s finances

Both House Democrats and New York state prosecutors have subpoenaed Trump’s financial records and tax returns, while the president has fought those efforts in court. In December, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and is expected to rule on it in June.

There are several other cases of import that will be decided during the Supreme Court’s current term. They include two challenges to the separation of church and state brought in the name of “religious liberty,” a case challenging the constitutionality of the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and one that seeks to expand the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect LGBT Americans from workplace discrimination.

All of these decisions will have a profound effect—not only on millions of Americans, but on the conversation leading up to the 2020 election. Most notably, rulings on abortion, DACA, and possibly Obamacare are sure to mobilize one side or the other, depending on the outcome. If the court rules that Trump must release his financial records, we’ll be pouring over those in the months prior to the election. Given that the president has worked so hard to keep them secret, who knows what we’ll find?

Democrats, however, should prepare themselves for some major losses on several fronts. With Chief Justice John Roberts as the one remaining possibility for a swing vote, all eyes will be on him. But given his track record on these issues, the prospects don’t look good.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.